absolutely! Delicious with Tony Vallone – May 2016

200-tonyabsolutely! DELICIOUS | By Tony Vallone –

One question people often ask me is, “What makes a great steak?” Aside from friends and guests who have become vegetarians or vegans, there are few people who don’t like steaks. It’s one of those dishes that is embraced nearly universally in our country, and there is a good reason for that.

Yes, they have great beef in Europe. I’ve had excellent steaks and roasts in France, Italy and even Great Britain, where beef is still a big part of their diet. But, the geographically challenged Europeans never had the Great Plains that we have here in the United States. A lot of people don’t realize that the American landscape has a lot to do with the tradition of raising cattle and eating beef in this country.

Dry aging is the secret behind the rich and almost nutty flavor of a great steak.

Dry aging is the secret behind the rich and almost nutty flavor of a great steak.

So much wide-open space gave ranchers all of the space they needed to let their cattle graze freely on the native grasses of the Great Plains. Then, the advent of refrigerated train cars made it possible to raise cattle on the plains of Texas, for example, and then get the freshly butchered meat to the finest restaurants of New York without any spoilage or health issues.

Today, steak for dinner – especially on a Friday or Saturday night or for a special occasion – is something that almost everyone enjoys in our country. But what makes a great steak? Dry aging is something you can’t do at home, because you don’t have the space, and it’s the true benchmark of a great steak. Dry aging is exactly what it says it is. The beef is aged, uncovered and unwrapped in a temperature-controlled room where it loses its moisture, its flavors are concentrated, and it becomes naturally tender.

A lot of restaurants don’t like dry aging, because it causes shrinkage in the meat. They might “wet age” their steaks, which means they age the beef in Cryovac, in other words, air-tight packaging. But, dry aging is the only way to achieve that richness in flavor and the almost “nutty” quality that make the best steaks in America today.

All of the beef served in my restaurants is dry aged and some of it – the top selections on my menus – is dry aged for 55 days. That’s what makes the difference between a great steak and a mediocre steak. And when you’re treating yourself, family, friends, co-workers or clients to a steak, you don’t want it to be a so-so steak. You want it to be great.

Email Tony@VallonesHouston.com to submit a food-related question to Tony.